When did Groundhog Day Start?


Punxsatawney Phil on Groundhog Day

On February 2, 1887, Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania newspaper editor Clymer Freas invented the idea of Groundhog Day. According to reports, he convinced a group of businessmen and groundhog hunters known as the Punxsatawney Groundhog Club to trek to a site called Gobbler’s Knob to hold an “official” ceremony. If the groundhog saw his shadow, it would be considered bad news.

In modern days, the February festivities that attract tens of thousands of spectators over three days are presided over by the Inner Circle, a band of local dignitaries who wear top hats and speak in the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dialect (supposedly this is called “Groundhogese”). This well-known groundhog is known as “Punxsatawney Phil.”

Tradition states that if the groundhog emerges from his burrow and sees his shadow on this day, six more weeks of winter will follow. If he does not see his shadow, it means an indication of an early spring. Maybe we shouldn’t rely on Phil’s forecast so much though, the National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian weather service report his accuracy at less than 40%. Yet still, it is a fun tradition that continues today.

Ancient Significance of February 2nd

The date of February 2nd falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and was noted for its significance by many ancient cultures. The Celts celebrated “Imbolc” as the beginning of spring. Early Christians evolved it into the feast of Candlemas, the commemorated the presentation of Jesus at the holy temple in Jerusalem. They believed that if it was sunny on Candlemas that 40 more days of cold were to follow. Germans only pronounced the day sunny if animals like hedgehogs could see their own shadows, and it was the German settlers into Pennsylvania who brought the current tradition with them in the 1700s and 1800s, selecting the groundhog as the mascot animal.

Groundhog-Day-MovieGroundhog Day, the Movie

Miss Meredith Sweetpea always enjoys watching the 1993 movie Groundhog Day in which actor Bill Murray, playing a reticent weatherman, is doomed to repeat the same day again and again. Somehow, this comedy never grows old.



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